The other night, I was at an event with a number of people and the group got to talking about how banks are the most sophisticated marketers out there - but the connotation of the word "sophisticated" in that context wasn't to say that banks had complex or intricate marketing systems, but rather, that they are deceptive and misleading. I kept my mouth shut…at first.
You see, while I wouldn't argue with that connotation when it comes to marketing employed by many such institutions, it's not fair or true of all marketers.
Our job…my job…is to help organizations communicate effectively. If you have a great product or service, you're likely awesome at building that product or offering that service, but you might not be so great at communicating it's value to others, so your great offering gets used by no one - even some who might need it badly but don't know it.
That's where I/we come in. My job is to understand who you are and what you do and then help you communicate that to the world, or for most companies, just the part(s) of the world that would find your offering valuable and that's not dishonest.
Nor is seeking to understand what interests people in a given region and then targeting your communications so as to ensure you have the best chance at being heard. If we're good at inter-personal relationships, we all do that already. If we have something to share with another person, it's important to listen first in order to understand the other person, so that when we speak, we maximize the potential to be understood. That too, is not dishonest.
So as the comments flew about the room the other night, with a playful smile on my face and some faked offence in my voice, I threw out a plea that not all of us marketers were bad news. Everyone had a good chuckle when they realized that one of those "evil marketers" was sitting amongst them and that maybe we aren't all bad.
I'd be fine if we stayed in that place. The comfortable place where we know that like money, marketing is amoral - it's what we do with it that makes it good or bad and not all of us are interested in using it badly.
That's a comfortable place for all of us to be. Especially since, at any given time, one of us marketers might be sitting in the room with you.